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Image of the Week: Donating your brain to science

31 Jul, 2015


C0118005 Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's Tissue Bank, UK.

Our image of the week shows coronal slices of a donated human brain during dissection at the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Tissue Bank at Imperial College, London. Vanessa Shepherd, a final year clinical photography student at the University of Westminster, took this photograph during a work placement with our colleagues in Wellcome Images. Here she talks about her visit and the important work conducted at the Tissue Bank…

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system that affects around 100,000 people in the UK. Parkinson’s, a progressive neurological disorder affects on around 127, 000 people in the UK. Most people diagnosed with Parkinson’s are over 50, but it can affect people who are much younger – as in the case of actor Michael J Fox.

During our visit to the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Tissue Bank I was reassured by the openness and transparent approach of the labs and researchers. The clean, sterile environment was sympathetic towards the good nature of the people who had donated their tissue, and staff members were appreciative of the donations.

The researchers are striving to learn more about the brain and make further progress in fighting these Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s by studying donated brain and spinal cord tissue.

The dissection I witnessed was carefully performed by an experienced neuropathologist who was happy to talk through the process and discussed what researchers are typically searching for in the identification of disease.

After the initial dissection, we watched as scientists performed a process of embedding the tissue in wax. This allows for further sectioning so that samples can be mounted on slides, ready for close assessment under a microscope.

I was surprised to learn that the researchers here welcome anyone that is considering donation – with either of these conditions or healthy brains – to get in touch with any questions they may have, and even to arrange to visit the facility for themselves.

Image credit: Vanessa Shepherd, Wellcome Images, Wellcome Images

Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. Over 100,000 high resolution images from our historical collections are now free to use under the Creative Commons-Attribution only (CC-BY) licence.

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